Temporally sensitive neural measures of inhibition in preschool children across a spectrum of irritability

Christen M. Deveney, Margaret J. Briggs-Gowan*, David Pagliaccio, Christopher R. Estabrook, Elvira Zobel, James L. Burns, Elizabeth S. Norton, Daniel S. Pine, Melissa A. Brotman, Ellen Leibenluft, Lauren S. Wakschlag

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Irritability is a prominent feature of chronic mental disorders and a developmental marker of their early emergence. The most salient feature of irritability in early childhood is temper tantrums. While temper tantrums are normative in young children, they can be clinically concerning when they are dysregulated, very frequent, and/or occur in unexpected contexts. The present study uses behavioral and event-related brain potential (ERP) measures to characterize the relationship between irritability and neural markers of response inhibition in very young children. Forty-six children (ages 4–7 years) completed a go/no-go task under nonfrustrating and frustrating conditions. ERPs elicited by go and no-go stimuli were examined as a function of frustration condition and irritability, operationalized via the well-validated Temper Loss scale of the Multidimensional Assessment Profile of Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB). Higher Temper Loss scores were associated with larger N2 no-go amplitudes and reduced no-go accuracy during frustration. This suggests that higher levels of irritability corresponded with increased conflict monitoring and poorer task performance during frustration. These findings add to a developing literature identifying the neurocognitive markers of varying levels of irritability in young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-227
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • event-related brain potential
  • frustration
  • irritability
  • preschool
  • response inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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